When things go bump in the night, sometimes hope of good overcoming evil doesn’t lie with a priest or a final girl. Instead, saving the day resides with a kid who’s always known there were monsters under their bed all along and is ready to throw down to save the day, no matter the cost.
This year, it’s the members of The Losers' Club; a small group of children tormented by a terror that unites them all in Andrés Muschietti’s eagerly anticipated adaptation of Stephen King’s IT. The teaser trailer has already blown the internet to smithereens gaining a view count of 197 million in just 24 hours, which suggested the world definitely can’t wait for IT, and why not?
The story of a genuinely bloodthirsty monster that takes kids is the stuff of cinematic nightmares, but before we get reacquainted with Pennywise the Clown, there are a few other youngsters who came before this bunch and faced just as many horrors - or even were horrors themselves. What’s even more shocking is that these kids lived to tell about it and all before the even greater horror that lies ahead - high school.
Here’s a list of the 15 Toughest Kids In Horror Movies.
16 Danny Torrance – The Shining
Anyone who was unlucky enough to visit The Overlook Hotel during the winter period would soon come to realize that checking out would be the best option, before the hotel did it for them. With horrors at every corner, it caused even thse seemingly level-headed writer Jack Torrance to fall to its supernatural control. That wasn’t the case for his chip off the old block though, oh no! Even in the face of the ultimate evil Danny Torrance and his special gift took on The Overlook Hotel and won – but not without a cost.
The nightmarish visions of The Overlook’s blood-soaked past were something no child should have witnessed, but Danny did, and still managed to make it out. There may have been moments where his childlike innocence was tested, but the real trial was outmanoeuvring his own father, for the sake of his mother and his own safety.
The final scenes of Jack trudging through the hedge maze to have a last word with his family sends more chills than even the inches of snow that eventually overwhelm him. He would’ve gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for his meddling kid.
15 Carol Anne – Poltergeist
Like many children on this list, Carol Anne from Poltergeist is a youngster whose good nature and kindness makes her easy prey for the forces of darkness. The Beast, as Tangina calls it, makes itself known to Carol Anne and through her innocence and imagination is more susceptible to it, which makes her kidnapping to the other world just as terrifying.
These childish traits are both a blessing and a burden to the missing member of the Freeling family. They pile on the fear when she goes missing inside the house, and even more so when she’s discovered. Hearing Carol Anne’s sweet voice morph in and out of the land of the living in an effort to return to her mother is haunting. It’s the same hair-raising frequency that would send chills every time a child laughed down an empty hallway for all the horror films that followed.
It’s an exceptional performance from the late Heather O’Rourke, who would be continuously haunted by the malevolent force for three films, which she completed before sadly passing away at the age of 12.
14 Newt – Aliens
Even before Ripley and her team of trigger-happy marines knocked on the door of Hadley’s Hope, there were undoubtedly an array of blood-freezing sights young Newt was forced to witness long before we met her in James Cameron’s Aliens. In between her father having his face hugged and Ripley seeing her beneath the grates, Newt was forced to grow up fast and out-manoeuver a horror that had overrun her entire home. What’s even more impressive is that the girl responsible for bringing the character to life makes you believe that she has.
Just as the likes of Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn and co. sell the idea that these are well-trained killers, so too does Carrie Henn instill the image that she’s been through the wars herself. In a world of monsters, Newt is one girl who’s fully aware of their existence and is the most well-educated party to listen to in the war between man an intergalactic beast. When she says, "they mostly come out at night," you better get indoors.
13 Ofelia – Pan’s Labyrinth
In a world where monsters come in many forms (some with horns, some in military uniform), 11-year old Ofelia proves that the same rings true for heroes. In Guillermo Del Toro’s beautifully twisted fantasy, Pan’s Labyrinth, our protagonist is an innocent girl in territory we’ve been acquainted with once upon a few times before. Trapped under the thumb of her cruel stepfather and finding aid from otherworldly creatures, this is a fairy-tale told through the grim but gorgeous lens of Del Toro, and has his own perfect princess at the centre of it.
Even now, there’s a question of whether the land of fauns and fairies that our hero wanders into isn’t one she builds herself to escape the brutality of the world she’s forced to live in. Imagination gone wild or not, Ofelia shows a tenacious spirit and strength that could so easily be crushed in such dark times, and meets her own "happy ever after" in the end.
12 Cole – The Sixth Sense
Like many others, Cole Sear is blessed with something that some would deem a curse and for most of The Sixth Sense, it’s easy to see why. As the window slowly creaks open, showing us what this timid and tormented 9-year old can see, we also get an insight into just the sort of kid Cole is and how brave he is handling his "gift." This varies from Cole being locked in a cupboard that’s already occupied to a drive past a cemetery that this poor little boy fights with all his might to ignore.
There are times when running to that red Overlook carpet-colored fort is an acceptable response, as Cole waits for the temperature to rise, and hopes that whatever is outside his safe haven will go away. Thankfully though, it’s with the help of his guardian angel, Malcolm, that he learns some of his visitors just want to move on, and all he has to do is help them get there.
To have that understanding at such a young age not only shows just how great this kid is, but is also the first step in a life that Malcolm knows could’ve gone so differently.
11 Regan – The Exorcist
She might not be present for a majority of the film, but that doesn’t downgrade Regan’s resilience in The Exorcist. As Regan is imprisoned in her own body, Father Merrin and Father Karras fight for her soul, which is caught in the clutches of the pea-soup spewing demon, Pazuzu. What begins with a bit of make believe greeting of Captain Howdy soon becomes a struggle between good and evil as the young girl we’ve seen transforms into something truly sinister.
The shift from a young girl to the demon possessing her is a visceral and iconic transformation, with Regan only making occasional breaks back to reality before she’s snatched back from the creature holding her prisoner. More often than not, they’re feeble efforts against an ancient force, but commendable nonetheless. Even if it took two priests and the greatest sacrifice to save her, Regan coming back from the other side compels us to add her to the list.
10 Oskar – Let The Right One In
Another social outcast, another character to seek comfort in what anyone else would deem a monster. Oskar from Let The Right One In is already a young boy hardened by the world he doesn’t want to be in, which makes the discovery of a vampire neighbor a very minor issue. His concerns aren’t with Eli, her appetite, or her methods of sustaining it (everyone’s gotta live somehow, right?).
Instead, for Oskar the real trial comes from just getting through a day without crossing paths with the school bully, or not being torn between his separated mother and father. These are the trials that make him a tough nut that doesn’t crack even when a monster descends on his town - and that monster happens to be the girl next door.
Mentor, protector, unholy predator; Eli is many things that Oskar admires and accepts with open arms, and is willing to make drastic changes in his life for the benefit of them both. When a final trip to the local swimming pool ends in the bullies being bested (to a somewhat dramatic degree), the two ride off together to an unknown future, and one of them hiding in a box. Kids, eh?
9 Bill Denbrough – IT
One character that fans of IT will no doubt be excited to see brought to the big screen will be the leader of The Losers' Club, Bill Denbrough. Originally played by Jonathan Brandis in the 1990 TV movie, Bill is the only member of the Club to have had a history with Pennywise the clown, after it took his little brother, George, to where all the other kids float. For most of the group, their battle with It is out defense; to finally rid the town of the evil that has taken so many. For Bill, it really is personal and makes him one of the toughest kids on the block.
There’s a complexity to Bill that few others on this list possess. As well as being noble and heroic to the other members of The Losers' Club, Bill carries a guilt that haunts him since the day Georgie died - and Pennywise taps into that every chance it gets. Even after the clown has gone and his memories fade, knowing that Georgie went out alone on that rainy afternoon stays with him, and it’s what draws him back to Derry all those years later.
8 Samara – The Ring
One of the few whippersnappers on this list that we wish weren’t as tough as they are, Samara is one brat that just won’t stay down. Those that have crossed her path in the past may well have been only slightly freaked when they get a glimpse of her in that cursed video, but give it a week and things can only get worse.
Nobody has to watch the tape, but a number of dopey folk have played this cursed footage and given the go ahead to be offed one week later by Samara. Like a tiny Terminator; she can’t be reasoned with, she doesn’t feel pity, or pain, and she absolutely will not brush her hair, ever.
This killing spree is not without its motives, of course. If you were thrown to the bottom of a well and left to die, you’d be pretty peeved about the whole situation too. It stands to reason, then, that she crawls out of said hole every chance she gets to make the wildlife go a bit mad and cause unsuspecting folk to cough up hairballs until their television starts leaking.
7 Luke Eveshim – The Witches
Sometimes a victory is not without a cost. That’s the lesson learned by Luke Eveshim, who after being told by his grandmother that witches exist, eventually meets a hotel full of the cackling, children-killing sort, all meeting up to discuss their future plans of world domination. Does Luke run away in fear? Does he call the local authorities? No, he doesn’t! Instead, he takes a crack at ending their evil schemes and gets turned into a mouse for his efforts.
As if his life wasn’t messed up enough, with parents long since dead and full knowledge that the big bad ladies in fairy tales are real, Luke then gets sentenced to a life being chased by cats. Nevertheless, you can’t keep a kid-turned-rodent down. After his first failed attempt to end the witches, Luke returns to use their own potion against them; turning those hooked nosed monsters into rodents and leaving the hotel staff to take care of it from there.
While one huge coven is eradicated, Luke is forced to remain a mouse forever, which he takes on the chin and continues to scurry across the globe to put an end to witches for good.
6 Samuel – The Babadook
Weapons craftsman, home security specialist, and self-imposed outcast, The Babadook’s Samuel might scream "strange one" (especially when he’s literally screaming, on occasions) but he’s still switched on to something in his house that his mother takes a while to catch on to. After a nighttime reading of a book no one should have on their shelf, Samuel goes to great efforts to deter whatever is trying to get in. It, of course, doesn’t work and so begins the question of if the Babadook really is terrorizing the house, or if mother and son have collectively made this up in their head.
Though he may be willing to fight this supposed supernatural force, Samuel doesn’t make the list just for facing down the Babadook, but also his mother, as well. As the spirit slowly consumes Amelia, Sam takes it upon himself to restrain his mother and expel the demon once and for all, risking his own life to put family he has left back together again. It’s sweet in a sort of ink-spewing, exorcising sort of way.
5 Mark Petrie – Salem’s Lot
If being a geek in a horror movie has taught us anything, it’s that knowing your stuff can pay off in terms of your survival. Take Mark Petrie from Salem’s Lot, the adaptation of Stephen King’s classic vampire tale; an exemplary know-it-all, who spends most of his time watching horror movies and littering his room with iconic monsters. Geek? Certainly. But when one of said monsters comes wrapping at his window in the form of Danny Glick, he has it figured out pretty easily that the floater outside is really a garlic-hating, toothy member of the undead.
From here, he soon becomes one of the few inhabitants of Salem’s Lot who knows what’s what and is plunged into a fight against one of King’s most terrifying creations, Kurt Barlow. The battle costs him greatly; not only losing his parents to, but also leaving his hometown after it succumbs to its unnatural new arrivals.
4 Rudy Halloran – Monster Squad
Somewhere in between Stand By Me’s Chris Chambers and Danny Zuko from Grease sits Monster Squad’s Rudy Halloran, leaning over the handle bars of his bike sizing up the opposition and smiling the entire time. He might not be the most knowledgeable of the Monster Squad in Fred Dekker’s 1987 cult classic, but there’s no denying he’s cooler than any of the team and the cold-blooded beasties out to tear his neighbourhood in half.
Making an entry that tops any of the other saviors of Monster Squad, Halloran proves that sometimes the coolest kid in school can hang around with the geekiest. It really seems like nothing can phase this kid, so if school bullies are no match for Halloran, then neither are legendary villains like The Mummy, Dracula, or his three rather flirtatious brides.
When all around him is chaos, Halloran is one of the first to walk into danger and take it head on – and why not, he’s in the damn club, isn’t he?
3 Charlie McGee – Firestarter
Despite being one of the least popular of Stephen King adaptations (even according to the man himself), that still doesn’t dampen Charlie McGee’s rather incendiary nature in Firestarter. Gifted with pyrokinetic capabilities thanks to her mother and father - and the enhanced drug that they were exposed to by the government - Charlie need only think of hot flamey thoughts to set the situation alight. Of course, as is always the way, shady government bodies want to pull Charlie in and test her capabilities, which doesn’t go down well and turns an innocent 9-year old girl into a walking inferno.
Transforming from cute, naïve infant to destroyer of men and government-funded facilities in no time at all, this doe-eyed living weapon spends the final act of Firestarter lighting the place up and turning tie-wearing henchman extra, extra crispy.
She didn’t start it, but by finishing this horrific ordeal, she ensures that no government walks away unscathed and turns her prison to a pile of kindling, before heading off to bust this scandal wide open. Gosh, her medically enhanced parents sure would be proud.
2 Damien – The Omen
Another problem child who always manages to get away, Damien Thorne is one of hell of a troublemaker that adults just can’t seem to apply the correct guidance to. You may have think your friend’s kids are the spawn of Satan, but this brat is the devil himself; causing all sorts of horrible incidents to occur as the mission to bring Hell on earth is put in to action. Should a grown-up be found nearby a high ledge, scaffolding, or anything that resembles a set-piece from a Final Destination film, they may want to head in the other direction.
The damage doesn’t stop there, of course; Damien goes onto to ruin a day out to the zoo, only deems a birthday successful if it ends with a coroner’s report, and has a bit of fun and games with pushing his own mother of a landing. He’s a problem child of the highest order and one that no priest or sharp-eyed photographer can put a stop to. The Omen's Damien is a little devil in every sense of the word.
1 Claudia – Interview with the Vampire
She didn’t ask for it, she didn’t want it, but that didn’t stop Claudia from Interview with the Vampire becoming one hell of a bloodsucking fiend. Saved from the plague thanks to tormented neck-biter Louis, Kirsten Dunst’s curly-haired hellion travels the globe with her new guardians and develops a real knack for nibbling on people. The face of a child with the mind of a monster; these two don’t go well together, especially when Claudia begins to question her own immortality and the troubles that can come with it.
Easily one of the most notable moments in the classic adaptation of the Anne Rice novel is seeing the young Claudia trying to wrap her head around what she’s become. All kids want to grow up, but Claudia will never get that chance to, and her rage reaches shocking but understandable levels. From then on, Claudia becomes a very different character, showing less remorse and realizing just how equal she is to the rest of her murderous family - until her last moments, where the child-like Claudia makes a final appearance.
Which horror kid would you rather have on your side? Let us know in the comments!